When you are ready to put together your Circle of Support, the first step is to decide the people who are close to you and you can trust. Also, think of one or two people who know you well and can help you make medical choices and decisions. This could be a family member or a family friend who is a nurse, a doctor or a therapist. After you have set up your Circle of Support, the next step is to ask people to have a meeting with you. This meeting is to help you put together a Person-Centered Plan. Part of this plan will be for you to know who to ask for help in certain ways in your life. Health and medical issues should be part of this plan. You can decide what decisions you feel you can make on your own. If you feel that you cannot make important medical decisions, your family members may talk to you about guardianship. That means your guardian will be making medical decisions and giving consent for doctors or hospitals to do certain things, like surgery. Your guardian should discuss your choices with you and listen to what you think when a decision must be made.
Different states have different types of guardianship. Sometimes you can have a guardian make only some decisions like medical ones, and you are still able to make decisions about all the other areas of your life. Talk to your family about what is best for you.
These videos may be helpful:
- Decision-making with Circle of Support (Healthy Transitions NY)
- Alternatives to Guardianship (Healthy Transitions NY)
Even if you are able to make health care decisions, you should pick someone who will make decisions at times when you are unable to do so, for example, if you are unconscious or in a coma. States have different names for this person and different rules about choosing someone. Check with your state’s Department of Health.
This video is on having a health care agent and letting others know what your wishes are. You can watch it with your family or caregiver:
- Decision-Making for Self Advocates (NYSARC Inc., SANYS, Hospice and Palliative Care of NYS)